Monday, October 22, 2012

Abigail Jane Scott Duniway

Duniway votes at last!

Born this day in 1834: Abigail Jane Scott Duniway (1834–1915), pioneer, writer, women’s rights activist, and suffragist who laid the groundwork for suffrage in Oregon.

Abigail Jane Scott, a native of Illinois,  undertook the westward journey to Oregon with her family in 1852. She recorded the arduos and tragic journey (her mother and one brother died en route) in a journal, which would provide the basis for her first novel—Captain Gray’s Company (1859)
In Oregon she began teaching school, then married Benjamin C. Duniway the following year. The Duniways had one daughter and five sons. In 1862 the Duniway farm was lost to a bad business decision made unilaterally by her husband. Not long afterwards, Mr. Duniway was injured in an accident and unable to work. Duniway resumed teaching for a while, then opened a milinary and notions shop.
Duniway chafed under the legal restrictions she faced as a woman. In 1871 she moved the family to Portland, where she established a newspaper, the New Northwest. The paper was devoted to woman suffrage and women’s rights, including married women’s property rights. (Her brother, Harvey W. Scott, also ran a newspaper in Portland—which opposed woman suffrage. She would blame him when suffrage failed in the vote of 1900.) Later she published a similar publication, The Pacific Empire. In addition to women’s rights, Duniway advocated temperance, although she was opposed to prohibition, earning her enemies on both sides of the debate. She  continued writing fiction, some of which appeared as serialized novels in her newspaper. Her novel From the West to the West, was published in 1905.
In Portland, Duniway became increasingly active in women’s rights. She organized a Northwest speaking tour for Susan B. Anthony in 1871. In 1873 she founded the Orgeon Equal Suffrage Association. She traveled and lectured on women’s rights and lobbied the state legislature, sometimes facing both verbal and physical attack. Her influence was felt in the Washington Territory and in Idaho, places where she received much credit for securing the women’s vote, in 1833 and 1896, respectively. 
In 1912 Oregon at last adopted woman suffrage. Duniway was given the honor of drafting the official proclamation and signed it along with the governor. She was also the first woman to register and vote in the state of Oregon.

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